The Trail Smoke Eaters lost its final home game of the season on Saturday falling to the West Kelowna Warriors 4-2.
After an 11-3 drubbing at the hands of the Vernon Vipers Friday in Vernon, the Smoke Eaters struggled to capitalize on scoring chances in their game against the Warriors. Trail outshot West Kelowna 32-26, but a third-period goal by Jonathon Desbiens at 5:39 would break a 2-2 tie and keep the Warriors playoff hopes alive.
“It was definitely a better response, it was overall a solid effort, and I think we deserved to win that game for sure,” said Trail Smoke Eater coach Nick Deschenes.
The win puts the Warriors, 27-21-0-8, into a tie with Salmon Arm and Merritt for the fourth and final play-off spot with 62 points, however, both Salmon Arm, 27-20-3-5, and Merritt, 30-23-0-2, have a game-in-hand on West Kelowna.
Desbiens opened the scoring at 10:57 of the first period, making a nice move in tight and beating Trail goalie Brett Clark short side. Max Newton would even it when he corralled a clearing attempt by Nick Rutigliano that took a fortuitous bounce off the boards and fired it by Warrior goalie Scott Patton with five minutes remaining in the middle frame. But Rutigliano would get it back, wiring a shot from the point that went through traffic and beat Clark to put the Warriors up 2-1 just 32 seconds later.
Trail’s Harlan Orr tallied his 18th of the season 55 seconds into the third period to tie it at 2, but Desbiens would score the winner and his second of the night and Trail would fail to find the equalizer as the Warriors Brett Mennear iced it with an empty net goal with nine seconds remaining.
“It’s the same kind of story line, here’s a potential play-off team and here we are that’s skating side-by-side, and when you pick your head up at the end of the day they are one goal ahead,” said Deschenes. “It’s hard, I know for some of these local guys, who played their last game of junior, it’s not how they wanted to skate off the Cominco Arena ice.”
Patton was named the game’s first star for his 30 saves, Trail’s Newton second star, and Orr picked up third star honours for his goal and an assist.
On Friday, Vernon broke open a 4-3 game after two periods, to score seven unanswered goals in the final frame on their way to an 11-3 victory. The Vipers outshot Trail 50 to 23 to complete the seven-game sweep this season. Jake Lucchini scored twice for the Smokies and Orr tallied once. Jagger Williamson had a five-point night for Vernon with two goals and three assists. Former Smokie and Trail native Riley Brandt had a goal and an assist for the Vipers, as Vernon went 4-for-9 on the power play while Trail was 0-for-4.
Trail will travel to West Kelowna tonight to play the Warriors before wrapping up their season on Saturday in Merritt.